How do you define happiness and success in 2023? It’s time for a revisit to CivicScience’s ongoing tracking of how Americans define both of these concepts now that 2022 is in the books.

Recent CivicScience poll results show that Americans continue to value family and home life as leading drivers of happiness and success. That said, the percentage of people who chose family as their primary definition of happiness and success declined by seven percentage points from 2021 to 2022. Along with this decline came a new trend in 2022: an increasing emphasis on connection with others outside of one’s household – specifically through friendships and romantic relationships. This is perhaps unsurprising coming off of years of pandemic isolation where human connection became more difficult to maintain.

CivicScience previously found that today’s young adults are less happy than their predecessors five years ago, but what do they associate with happiness? The importance of family decreased among Gen Z from 2021 to 2022, while the importance of romantic relationships increased for both happiness and success. Although Gen Z adults place a higher value on friendships overall compared to older adults, they are not alone in their emphasis on friendships; friendships as a leading measure of happiness increased by four percentage points among young Millennials, two percentage points among young Gen X, and one percentage point among 55+ year olds, while family declined across the board.

Career and finances remained important factors for defining success, but saw a decrease in importance from 2021 to 2022 (with the exception of younger Millennials). Career fell most significantly among Gen Z, down nine percentage points from 2021.

Continuing 2021 trends, there were notable differences in how men and women defined happiness and success, with women being more likely to prioritize family and men focusing on romantic relationships and friendships. However, this gap narrowed in 2022 as women placed a greater emphasis on romantic relationships and friendships.

One other noteworthy nugget: Despite the ongoing pandemic and prevalence of various illnesses, the percentage of people focusing on health to define happiness and success changed very little and, in some cases, decreased into 2022. 

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